Tuschman and Fogelson also said something that made me raise an eyebrow: that it's much easier to craft a show around a personality than vice versa. That tells me that they may already have shows in mind and are just looking for someone to slot in rather than really letting the winner make the kind of show they have been told to be thinking about all through this "competition".
So, Bob, let's go to the tape:
Stacey - I pretty much knew she was gone when she decided to be "emotional" before she made her pitch. She has not been able to connect with the judging panel all season and they did call it: she came across as sad more than anything else. I don't think she figured out that what she was essentially saying was that she viewed the people she would be "helping" by modernizing their dishes were people in need of rescue from some emotional precipice. No, the food may need help but this is not "Dr. Stacey" and you are not a food therapist. Part of being a person in the public eye is being able to read a room and respond to the atmosphere and emotions there and Stacey consistently failed at that.
Also, I couldn't find a picture but I thought the grouping and clothing choices for last night screamed that the Food Network stylist had been given free rein with the contestants. They are all wearing some variation of black and white (with Russell, Damaris and Rodney) standing right next to each other. Stacey has a black and white skirt on but a bright pink top. I swear, why not put a name tag on her that reads "Ensign Redshirt" because that's what she was - the poor, unnamed schlub in the red shirt who beamed down with the others to Planet Pitch Meeting and was turned into a cube. At least she wasn't crumbled into dust :).
On to the next contestant...
Russell - I still like him and think he has come a long way. He's not quite a student of the William Shatner School of Public Speaking any more and came across as very engaging and enthusiastic last night when making his pilot. For me, the problem is that it's yet another travel show. I know the Food Network has become largely about entertainment more than cooking over the past few years but I get very tired of travel shows - largely because there isn't much actual cooking involved. Shows like Unwrapped have at least been slightly interesting because you learn how they are making the product that you're familiar with and that is informative and entertaining. Shows like Diners, Drive-ins and Douches...um, Drives, I mean are just somebody driving around and sticking huge bites of food in their maw while mumbling catchphrases through full mouths.
However, Russell did make something so that puts him ahead of the pack of travel shows for me. What still niggles at me is it didn't appear to be anything I could make at home. I don't exactly have a cannister of liquid nitrogen in my pantry. I would want to see if he could cook things that did not involve "help" from items that he might have access to but I do not. I would have loved to see an explanation of how to make ice cream without (a) liquid nitrogen or (b) an ice cream maker. Still, he is personable and knowledgeable so I'd at least give his show a try to see if there was something I could learn from it.
Rodney - GAH. When he walked into the restaurant and saw Fieri, my first thought was that the level of douche in the room had risen exponentially. You've heard of the blind leading the blind. This was the douche leading the bag.
His entire pilot grated on me. First, they want me to believe some tired shtick that he's been "challenged" by the chef or whoever to make their signature dish in a pie. It's been done before. The show was called Throwdown, and while Bobby Flay is not my favorite FN personality, he at least demonstrated he has cooking chops by trying to make many different dishes. I'm supposed to believe that Rodney is a pie expert when he has made, what, ONE, pie that people liked over three months? And now he's going to make everything into a pie? Moo goo gai pan? Tomato soup? Coq au vin? No.
His entire pilot was incredibly frenetic and LOUD - not to mention laced with liberal uses of "sick", "sucker" and every other slang word that Rodney can't seem to make a sentence without using. And all he did was slavishly copy Greenspan's recipe and offered no cooking notes at all other than Tallegio cheese is apparently stinky and pie dough should feel like a baby's butt when you slap it. Yeah...that's helpful. I could barely watch the 3-5 minutes of his pilot without wanting to curl up into a fetal position with a Merriam-Webster's. I could not watch even one episode of "Pie Style". That being said, this is the Food Network where entertainment trumps actual cooking.
Damaris - I liked her pilot from its conception to its execution. Her sense of humor was on full display last night from her comment to the network execs that she has "caught and released" several men by using Southern food to calling for a medic after Guy kept slapping her hand while hollering "Money!". (And, okay, I liked the pseudo-Lynrd Skynrd theme song they used for her).
Plus, she actually was TEACHING something. She worked in some tips, she related to her guest (actor), and she made food that wasn't a slavish copy or looked like it required ingredients or assistance that I don't have and cannot readily acquire. It was a far cry from Rodney mumble-yelling at Eric Greenspan. She didn't seem forced or trying on a persona. She was just cooking - which is probably why she won't win (full disclosure: I don't trust FN to not jack the results even though they say "American decides"). Instructional cooking shows - those that are left - have been largely shuffled over to the Cooking Channel and people like Sara Moulton aren't really even on the air any more unless it's a PBS channel somewhere.
Say no to Pie Style :P.